Victorian MP Julia Banks is quitting the Liberal Party and will sit on the crossbench until next year’s election, plunging the Coalition into minority government in another major blow to Scott Morrison.
The former corporate lawyer, who had been vocal about the party’s treatment of women and bullying and intimidation during the leadership spill against Malcolm Turnbull, announced in August that she’d leave politics at the next election as a result. She announced her surprise decision to become an independent in parliament just before noon saying she’d still support the government on supply and confidence motions while pointing the finger at the “revolutionary right wing” of the party.
“Their actions were undeniably for themselves, for their position in the party, their power, their personal ambition – not for the Australian people who we represent, not for what people voted for in the 2016 election, not for stability. And disregarding that teamwork and stability delivers success,” she said
“The aftermath of those dark days in August acutely laid bare the major parties’ obstructionist and combative actions and internal games – all for political point scoring rather than for timely, practical, sensible decisions on matters which Australians care about.”
Her move to the crossbench means the Morrison government now has just 74 of the 150 seats in the lower house.
Banks announced her decision just as the government announced it was bringing forward the federal budget by a month to April, paving the way for a May election.
While enough members of the crossbench will ensure the government runs full term – for a no confidence motion to succeed, it would require an absolute majority of 76 votes – the shift could create problems for the government in terms of the parliament’s ability to refer minister Peter Dutton to the High Court over his eligibility, a move the government was able to resist when it still had a majority.
The price of August’s leadership spill continues to mount for the Coalition after it lost Malcolm Turnbull’s old seat of Wentworth to independent Dr Kerryn Phelps, who was sworn in as an independent MP on Monday.
With the government currently lagging the Labor opposition by 10 points in the polls, and in the wake of the Coalition’s drubbing in the Victorian election on the weekend, the next six months will be a hazardous time for the Morrison government, which has now lost its ability to control the political agenda in parliament.
Here is Julia Banks’ full speech to parliament.
Following the leadership coup in August I announced my decision that I will not recontest the seat of Chisholm at the next election as a member of the Liberal party.
I’ve always put the People before the Party. After being a Labor-held seat for 18 years – the people of Chisholm elected me as I promised them that I would be their representative under the leadership of the former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull and former deputy leader and foreign minister Julie Bishop. Both visionary, inspiring leaders of sensible centrist liberal values with integrity, intellect and with significant support from my local community and across Australia, as leaders of our nation.
The gift of time and reflection has provided some clarity regarding the brutal blow against the leadership. Led by members of the reactionary right wing, the coup was aided by many MPs trading their vote for a leadership change in exchange for their individual promotion, preselection endorsements or silence. Their actions were undeniably for themselves. For their position in the party. Their power. Their personal ambition. Not for the Australian people who we represent. Not for what people voted for in the 2016 election. Not for stability. And disregarding that teamwork and unity delivers success.
The aftermath of those dark days in August then acutely laid bare the major parties’ obstructionist and combative actions and internal games. All for political point-scoring rather than for timely, practical sensible decisions on matters which Australians care about.
Equal representation of men and women in this parliament is an urgent imperative which will create a culture change. There’s the blinkered rejection of quotas and support of the ‘merit myth’ but this is more than a numbers game. Across both major parties the level of regard and respect for women in politics is years behind the business world. There is also a clear need for an independent and whistleblower system as found in many workplaces to enable reporting of misconduct of those in power without fear of reprisal or retribution. Often when good women ‘call out’ or are subjected to bad behaviour – the reprisals, backlash and commentary portrays them as the bad ones; the liar, the troublemaker, emotionally unstable or weak, or someone who should be silenced. To those who say politics is not for the faint-hearted and that women have to ‘toughen up’ – I say this: the hallmark characteristics of the Australian woman (and I’ve met thousands of them) be they in my local community, in politics, business, the media and sport – are resilience and a strong authentic independent spirit.
The voice of the Australian people has been loud and clear. Hundreds from my local community as well as hundreds more from across Australia contacted me with their support and (knowing that my life from humble and hardworking migrant heritage has been in the business real world and not as a career politician ) many pleaded that I stay in politics and become an independent representative. My sensible centrist values, belief in economic responsibility and focus on always putting the people first and acting in the nation’s interest have not changed. The Liberal party has changed. Largely due to the actions of the reactionary and regressive right wing who talk to themselves rather than listening to the people.
To continue to put the People before the Party and act in the nation’s interest authentically and constructively – effective immediately I will serve as a member of House of Representatives as an independent representative. I intend to give the government my assurance as to confidence and supply. In the new year, I will make a decision about my future career path. Like the three female independent representatives – the new member for Wentworth, the member for Mayo and the member for Indi – sensible centre liberal values are at the core of what I stand for.
As a result of this political journey I am grateful to have met so many wonderful people from across the political divide who I know will respect my decision and with whom I hope I will have enduring friendships. I am so proud to serve as a member of the House of Representatives with honour and respect because of the good people it represents. The people that the major parties have stopped listening to. The Australian People.
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